Ben Stokes' sensational hundred ensured England warmed-up for the Champions Trophy semi-finals by laying down a marker ahead of the Ashes after dumping Australia out of the tournament at Edgbaston. The hosts were reduced to 35 for 4 in pursuit of 278 to win but an inspired knock of 102 not out from the Durham man amid a boundary-laden stand of 159 with Eoin Morgan  turned the rain-affected match on its head.
The 2015 world champions had initially looked set for the victory which would have secured them a place in the knock-out phase. Half centuries for Aaron Finch , Steve Smith  and Travis Head [71 not out] helped the visitors put on a sub-par 277 for 9 from their 50 overs as Mark Wood finished with international-best career figures of four for 33.
In reply Jason Roy , Alex Hales  and Joe Root  were all dismissed cheaply, with Josh Hazlewood the chief tormentor who left England on the brink. But a 45-minute rain delay saw the momentum change as Morgan and Stokes took the game to the Australian seam attack with a fearless brand of cricket which has underlined their improvement over the last two years.
Though Morgan was denied his century following a crazy run-out, Stokes - the big-ticket item from the Indian Premier League [IPL] - went onto make his 10th ODI century. Rain came for a second time to bring an anticlimactic end to an otherwise thrilling game as England were declared victors by 40 runs on Duckworth-Lewis.
The result sees Bangladesh progress from Group A alongside England at the expense of Australia and take their place in the second semi-final on Thursday [15 June]. India face South Africa and Sri Lanka take on Pakistan in two virtual quarter-finals in the coming days to draw a conclusion to the preliminary stage.
Despite coming just six months prior to the first Ashes test in Brisbane, Australia could ill-afford the opportunity to land a psychological blow on England to distract them from the task of reaching the Champions Trophy knock-out stage. Two consecutive wash-outs had ensured they needed to beat the hosts and tournament favourites in Birmingham for the first time since 1993 - with Bangladesh following their remarkable win over New Zealand in Cardiff - knowing any slip up would see them progress.
Morgan's side were the only team assured of a place in the last four but had the opportunity to improve on a run of 11 wins in their last 12 50-over games and knockout a potential rival for the title ahead of the first semi-final in the Welsh capital on Wednesday [14 June]. More overcast conditions in the heat of the English summer saw the home side choose to bowl after winning the toss, and the decision immediately paid dividends.
David Warner  dealt almost exclusively in boundaries before nicking off to Wood, who added the Australian opener to an illustrious list of recent dismissals which also includes South Africa's Hashim Amla and Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson. Finch, however, continued his impressive form in England - where he averages over 50 in all formats - with some sumptuous hitting as Jake Ball and Liam Plunkett's curious length was punished.
He and captain Smith put on 95 for the second wicket before over-ambition got the better of the ex-Yorkshire and Surrey batsman as Morgan caught well after Finch skied an off-drive. Two tame shots then reduced Australia to 181 for 4 as Moises Henriques' flamboyant innings of 17 from 19 and then Smith's knock of 56 were ended by Plunkett.
England were now into an Australia middle-order many of whom had not batted in the opening two group matches and that ring rust was there for all to see as five wickets fell in the space of 26 balls for just 15 runs. Roy danced either side of the boundary to take a brilliant catch to dismiss Glenn Maxwell  after he had been dropped by Plunkett before Adil Rashid took two wickets in an over after Matthew Wade  and Mitchell Starc  were guilty of mistimed strokes.
Rashid had his third scalp in 10 balls when Pat Cummins  tentatively poked at a leg break which looped up for the second caught and bowled of the innings. Wood then picked up his fourth by emphatically bowling Adam Zampa .
Head struck Australia's first six with nine balls to spare to seal his sixth ODI half-century before hammering 12 off the final over - while surviving a second dropped catch from Plunkett - to ensure they needed to defend 278 to stay in the tournament. The two-time winners looked short of a total required to be competitive, but they soon regained a foothold in the game to reignite their semi-final hopes.
New ball pair Starc and Hazlewood both struck in the opening eight balls as Roy was trapped lbw - and threw away England's only review in the process - before Hales edged to Finch at first slip. The drama continued in the opening power play as Morgan followed three fours off Hazelwood by being dropped by Wade before Root edged fortuitously through the slips at the start of the next over.
With rain ominously in the air Root  edged behind as Hazlewood claimed his second wicket but Australia were left ruing the British weather as the heavens opened to disrupt them for the third time in their group campaign. After a 45-minute delay, the England counter-attack began as Morgan drove the first two balls to the boundary.
The Irishman continued to throw caution to the wind as he thrashed two sixes over the rope off Hazlewood before Stokes got in on the act with a pair of flashing drives. Both players went to their half-centuries, with the all-rounder reaching the landmark with a flat maximum to put England ahead on Duckworth-Lewis; a vital factor with more inclement weather expected.
Even the introduction of Zampa could not deter England as the boundaries continued to flow and Morgan and Stokes' stand surpassed 100. The Starc-Hazlewood-Cummins triumvirate were completely subdued by an attacking approach they had rarely seen from an England team.
Skipper Morgan was dismissed in chaotic fashion via a direct hit from Zampa but England were not to be denied as Stokes went to his hundred, helped by the dependable Jos Buttler who produced a virtuoso cameo of an unbeaten 29 runs from 32 balls. As had become a trend during Australia's matches, the rain returned but it mattered little with England out of sight and doing justice to their tag as pre-tournament favourites. But what the result does to their attempts to retain the Ashes this winter remains to be seen.